We are now beginning to see the first new federal Labor Organization Annual Reports (Form LM-2) submitted by teacher union affiliates. The U.S. Department of Labor changed the format and requirements of the LM-2 late in 2002 (see the January 21, 2003 EIA Communiqué story “Unions to Face Increased Federal Regulation“). The new regulations require a detailed itemization of spending, disaggregated membership numbers and accounting of agency fee payers, plus the percentage of time each union officer and employee worked on various activities, including “political activities and lobbying.”
The new report is a vast improvement over the old one, with payment amounts and recipients spelled out in exquisite detail. Previously, such payments could be batched together as contributions or fees, with individual recipients remaining anonymous. The new forms make it very clear who is receiving the union’s money (though it’s not always clear why).
Where the reports disappoint the most is in their itemizing of the percentage of time each union officer and employee spends on each of the following activities: 1) representational activities; 2) political activities and lobbying; 3) contributions; 4) general overhead; and 5) administration.
It asks union officers to make “good faith estimates” of how they spent their time.
An examination of the AFT reports shows AFT President Ed McElroy spent 6 percent of his time last year on political activities and lobbying. (It bears mentioning that last year was a Presidential election year.) State federation president estimates of their time on political activities and lobbying ranged from 30 percent (John Cole of the Texas Federation of Teachers) to 3 percent (David Hecker of AFT Michigan) to 2 percent (Debbi Covert of AFT Oregon).
The Illinois Education Association report is even more suspect. IEA President Anne Davis spent zero percent of her time on political activities and lobbying, and of the union’s 225 employees and executives, 213 reported they spent zero percent of their time on political activities and lobbying.
The new disclosure requirements allow union members and the public to better monitor the activities of these organizations, but there is still some work to be done.